Defining Homes • Ask the EXPERTS

With the economy still in a wicked mess, reports are that the latest trend in homebuying is not buying. Renters are on the rise. But are they? Real estate source Inman reported in January that it is cheaper to buy in the majority of the country’s larger cities. Keith Jurow reported last year on World Property Channel that a Harris Interactive survey found renting a better option. So which is it? We asked locals in the industry how the trends are swaying the Dallas housing market and the frustrations behind them.

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Michael Litzinger

Michael Litzinger
William Davis Realty Uptown

The trend has affected my business significantly. The firm I recently moved to seems to be more in tune with today’s market. Their streamlined, online process requires less paperwork which makes it better for the client, a much quicker turn around for me and better for the environment.

Leasing does move property these days, and I am just glad the industry moves in some fashion whether it’s leasing or selling.

I do think the trend has affected us locally somewhat, but not nearly as severely as in most other areas. I still feel good about the Dallas market.  I know Realtors in other areas that can’t say the same.

Buyers are decreasing to some degree. Even with low interest rates, I’ve had a lot of buyers come to me and then disappear.

 

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Derrick Dawson

Derrick Dawson
Texas Pride Realty

As an active and producing Realtor also working in property management, I’d say the rental trend has picked up significantly, but that doesn’t mean it’s been ideal for property renters/owners or for the multi-family industry. The rental market has been stable but faces some challenges based on broken leases due to financial hardship or unemployment. Many are playing it safe by downsizing or combining rental homes based on economic conditions, being fearful of keeping their jobs and saving for the future.
Today is a buyer’s market and an ideal time to get out of the rent race. The downfall to the buyer’s market that I have seen personally is buyers and investors taking advantage of desperate people in today’s markets, possibly causing detriment to individuals or families in their time of need but also bringing down values in those areas making it harder for others to sell.

 

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Dan Flynn

 

Dan Flynn
Dave Perry-Miller InTown

The trend of leasing over buying has changed the way I preview properties in my area. Leasing is so hot now, I’ve looked at rentals and try to know the different apartment communities close by. Now I am much faster to respond to leasing needs.

I process far more leases to build my future list of clients. I try to educate and prepare them for the buying process down the road. Using a Realtor to find the perfect place to lease makes a lot of sense for those wanting to buy in the future but also for those who don’t really want to do the legwork.

I recently represented a seller who could not sell his property for the amount he was hoping for. Finding qualified buyers in his market and price range wasn’t easy. Another Realtor’s client was interested in leasing the property so

I had to have that conversation with my seller. The seller decided to go with the lease. While sales are still going strong, leasing has increased. While this really is the time to buy, I think all the media attention scares buyers. Potential buyers need to know that the market is stable here and we are one of the cities leading the nation in sales right now.  Go buy a house now or pay more for it later both in price and interest rates.

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Keith M. Thomas

Keith M. Thomas
1111 Apartment Locators

Although the economy has definitely affected us here, it is worse in other areas of the country. Dallas continues to grow and so I feel the trend’s impact on Dallas has been positive.

My company is a fully licensed real estate brokerage company and we handle all residential and commercial real estate transactions yet, our primary business is apartment locating. We want to maintain focus on renters, but we’ve created strategic partnerships with other real estate companies and have a referral program with them. We work closely with our clients to help with all of their real estate needs.

For homes that have reasonable mortgages there is good news. In Dallas, the rental market has significantly gone up, especially from 2010 to present to a  94-97 percent occupancy rate.

Buyers become renters for two reasons: First, they are able to get a nicer home for a lower monthly payment. And second, it doesn’t make sense to buy unless you’re planning to stay. However, buyers are increasing, oddly enough. MetroTex Association of Realtors reported that last August 2010 there were 1,223 properties sold and this August 2011 there were 1,485.

It’s a landlords’ market. Rents are at a premium and good ones go fast. When I show my clients rentals, they want to think about it, I encourage them to act quickly, because the unit is gone within a day or two. Why should homeowners take a loss on waiting for a qualified buyer, when they can rent quickly and hold out for the market to improve?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

HRC’s New Corporate Equality Index Requires Removal of Exclusions to Transgender Healthcare and Benefits

The following is from Meghan Stabler; Meghan sits on HRC’s Board of Directors and Business Council:

Transgender healthcare coverage and benefits have for too long been excluded from many business’ healthcare plans. It has been a systematic level of discrimination against transgender employees that has a devastating impact on so many people, and it needs to change. In 2002, only 5% of CEI-rated companies included gender identity among their non-discrimination policies and in 2004, only 3% of CEI-rated companies addressed transgender health with limited benefit offerings. Today, 79% of CEI-rated companies provide this limited coverage and 85 companies offer at least one healthcare plan option to all employees that covers many medically necessary transition-related treatments, including hormone therapies and surgeries.

Since 2008 I’ve been an active member of the Human Rights Campaign Business Council. Members provide expert advice and counsel on LGBT workplace issues based on their business experience and knowledge. I, along with all members of the council made it our goal to ensure that we focus on uplifting the requirements for transgender inclusion and provide HR, diversity and benefit administrators with a clear path to remove transgender workplace discrimination and ensure the provision of health insurance.

Transgender people are often categorically denied health insurance coverage for medically necessary treatment, irrespective of whether treatment is related to sex affirmation/reassignment. Up until the last few years, nearly all U.S. employer-based health insurance plans contained “transgender exclusions” that limited insurance coverage for transition-related treatment and other care. For any employee, the denial of coverage for medically necessary services and treatments can be both traumatic and life-threatening. Employers, as consumers of group health insurance products, can advocate on behalf of the transgender people insured on their group health insurance plans. The HRC Corporate Equality Index provides the motivation for employers to work with their insurance carriers or administrators to remove transgender exclusions and provide comprehensive transgender-inclusive insurance coverage.

The new CEI criteria raise the transgender benefit provision requirements significantly for employees, their dependents and applies to business operations throughout the United States, including wholly-owned subsidiaries.

As part of HRC’s commitment to ending discrimination against transgender people, beginning in calendar year 2011 full credit will be given only to employers offering all benefits-eligible employees (and their dependents) at least one health insurance plan that

  • Covers medically necessary treatments without exclusions or limitations specific to transgender individuals or to transition-related care, and
  • Conforms to current medical standards of care such as those defined by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Standards of Care in determining eligibility and treatment coverage for transition-related services.

In making these changes HRC’s goal remains unchanged; seeking to highlight workplace practices that effectively eliminate discrimination against transgender employees. For the past three years we’ve undertaken a comprehensive review of employer insurance policies and documented tremendous progress. Many businesses have taken steps to remove discrimination from at least one of their health insurance plans for employees and their dependents: Employers of varying size and across industry sectors have successfully introduced coverage inclusive of services related to transgender transition, either at no cost or at a negligible cost.

We have also found that placing financial caps for transition related coverage are unnecessary and uncommon and were often utilized to control perceived risk. However, such caps also represent insurmountable barriers to care in many cases. They are discriminatory and the CEI will demand that they be removed. HRC research on utilization has shown that claims costs are extremely low, and therefore risk is low. Only 16 of the 85 businesses currently with full transgender coverage reported a financial cap, ranging from ,000 to 0,000, and half of these reported caps of ,000 or greater. In-depth interviews with a subset of employers indicated that there had been little or no initial increase in premiums, that both absolute and annual per employee costs attributed to benefit utilization had been minimal, and that there had been no impact on subsequent premiums.

So in summary, much progress has been made by corporations to provide coverage, but work still needs to be undertaken to remove prior discriminatory exclusions for transgender employees and dependents. I truly believe that the latest uplift to the CEI, and the requirement to provide services in order to achieve 100%, will signal a pivotal moment of change for both the employer and transitioning individual.

For more information visit www.hrc.org/cei

Overview of equal health coverage for transgender individuals in the calendar 2011 CEI:

Baseline Criteria

  • Insurance contract explicitly affirms coverage
  • Plan documentation is readily available to employees and clearly communicates inclusive insurance options to employees and their eligible dependents
  • Benefits available to other employees must extend to transgender individuals. Where available for employees, the following benefits should all extend to transgender individuals, including for services related to transgender transition (e.g., medically necessary services related to sex reassignment):
  • Short term medical leave
  • Mental health benefits
  • Pharmaceutical coverage (e.g., for hormone replacement therapies)
  • Coverage for medical visits or laboratory services
  • Coverage for reconstructive surgical procedures related to sex reassignment
  • Coverage of routine, chronic, or urgent non-transition services (e.g., for a transgender individual based on their sex or gender. For example, prostate exams for women with a transgender history and pelvic/gynecological exams for men with a transgender history must be covered)
  • Existing plan features should extend equally to transition related care, e.g., provisions for “adequacy of network, ”access to specialists, travel or expense reimbursement
  • Dollar caps on this area of coverage must meet or exceed ,000 per individual

Full Criteria

  • Coverage available for full range of services indicated by World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) Standards of Care, including the Medical Necessity Clarification Statement
  • No Lifetime or Annual Dollar caps on this area of coverage
  • Benefit administration covers treatment plans that adhere to the WPATH diagnostic and assessment process.
  • Eliminates barriers to coverage:
    • No separate dollar maximums or deductibles
    • Explicit adequacy of network provisions
    • No other serious limitations


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

LCR responds to DOJ: ‘Full relief here requires nothing less than a worldwide injunction’

Yesterday, the Log Cabin Republicans legal team filed its response to the Obama administration objections to LCR’s proposed injunction. I posted DOJ’s objections here. The first line of the response sums it up:

The government’s objections fail to recognize the implication of its loss at trial.

LCR wants a worldwide injunction on the enforcement of DADT because that law has been found unconstitutional after a facial challenge. Nothing less.

Karen Ocamb has an interview with LCR’s lead attorney, Dan Woods, which includes this exchange:

KO: I just posted a piece on how upset folks are about the DADT Senate vote – and how now folks are turning to you guys. Do you have ANY idea of what a timeline for this case might look like?

DW: In terms of a timeline, I can only guess but I estimate that Judge Phillips will issue a permanent injunction, in one form or another, by the end of the next week. After that, the government has 60 days to appeal. In the meantime, they are likely to ask her to stay enforcement of the judgment, she is likely to refuse, and the government would then have to seek a stay from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Sorry it is so complicated.

So, the judge will soon issue her final order. At that time, DOJ will probably ask for a stay pending an appeal — and may even have to appeal to get the stay.

The Obama administration is aggressively defending DADT when the Obama administration doesn’t have to defend DADT. We’ve been saying making this point for over a year, since the DOMA brief debacle. See here, here and here. It’s not just us. Senators and House members are asking Obama not to appeal. But, every indication we’re getting is that DOJ will appeal.

LCR response to DOJ in DADT case




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright